Employers to be forced to pass tougher test to hire migrants, Gordon Brown to say
Gordon Brown will today pledge to make it tougher for foreign professionals like doctors and engineers to work in Britain as he announces a tightening of the rules on immigration.
By Andy Bloxham and Tom Whitehead
Published: 8:00AM GMT 12 Nov 2009
He will stress the need for foreign workers to speak English and obey British rules as part of the announcement, his first recognition that the policy on immigration has alienated Labour's core working class voters.
The Prime Minister also plans to promise that the population will not reach 70 million by 2029, as recently forecast by the Office of National Statistics.
“I know people worry about whether immigration undermines their wages and the job prospects of their children and they also worry about whether they will get a decent home for their families.
“They want to be assured that the system is tough and fair. They want to be assured that newcomers to the country will accept their responsibilities… obey all the laws, speaking English is important, making a contribution,” he said.
“People have to be sure that the person next door and the person in the next street is accepting their responsibility as a citizen.
“We ask people to show that they abide by our laws, we ask people to show that they understand our constitution and our democracy, we ask people to show that they understand the values of liberty, fair play and responsibility.”
He will then state that the door is being closed to non-EU hospital consultants, civil engineers, aircraft engineers and ships' officers.
Speaking ahead of his first major speech on immigration, he said: “A few years ago we had to allow into the country and we benefited from it very highly skilled medical staff.
“We have now done a huge amount to train a new generation of medical staff in our country.
“We are now looking at how we can close the skills gap in this country so we can take occupations off the list where we need to recruit from abroad.
“Immigration will fall.”
Employers currently have to pass a test to prove that no British worker could do a skilled vacancy that they wish to fill from abroad.
However, Mr Brown will say he is to introduce a more stringent labour market test.
He will also promise British workers a months head start over migrant workers when applying for new jobs and create training schemes to fill areas of skill shortages, such as those in supply teaching and some specialist engineering and medical jobs.
The speech is seen as a move to wrest control of the issue from the politics of extremism, including those of the British National Party.
Ministers have increasingly recognised in recent weeks that they have lost ground with some voters by failing to properly debate immigration.
Todays speech is also viewed as an attempt to back Mr Browns widely criticised claim that Labour could provide British jobs for British workers.
This week Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, recognised Labours lack of thrust on the topic.
He said: People think we have shied away from a debate on immigration. They may well be right.
The public deserves a rational debate on this, rather than what they sometimes get, which is at the extreme end of the scale.
The Conservatives have claimed the number of migrants in Britain is the result of a deliberate Labour strategy to create a more multicultural country.
The Tories say the answer is to impose a rigid limit on the numbers of migrants allowed to come to Britain.
However, Mr Brown will say in his speech that the Governments plan for points-based migration based on preferring those with the skills for which there is the most demand is more flexible.
Polls for the trade union Unite during the summer suggested immigration was the biggest issue forcing leading Labour voters to defect or become disillusioned.
Last week, the Migration Advisory Committee, a Government advisory body, said more people were now leaving the country for work reasons than were coming in.
However, the Office of National Statistics projects the British population will increase by 10.4 million by 2033, of which immigration will contribute 7m.
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